Keeping it funny, when he can |

Keeping it funny, when he can

Ted AlvarezVail, CO, Colorado
AE Steve Onohue, Artist SM 8-16-07

Editors note: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Red Cliff Studio Tour. In the 10 days leading up to the Aug. 25 and 26 event, well profile each of the 10 artists participating in this years tour. Red Cliff artist and resident Steve Donahue paints playful figures amidst jaunty abstract, but he does it in a terrifying locale namely, the art studios in the old Red Cliff school.That place is haunted, he says without hesitation. Ill tell ya, my hair stands on end in there. Sometimes I dont like to go in there at night. But the spaces are awesome, and its great to have all these other people around. Before, it wasnt a scene, but now its pretty great.The friendly, jocular Donahue speaks open and freely, without hesitation and with a bit of sneaky wit, just like his paintings. Whimsy may direct his private work, but as a full-time muralist and faux painter, Donahue has to be versatile enough to depict everything from furniture to the L.A. Lakers.I gotta bounce around and be pretty versatile, he says. But I dont have any favorites. Everything I do is unique and fun in a certain way. When I paint for people, its awesome to see how stoked they are when Im done especially if theyre surprised.Donahue grew up drawing, painting and doing graffiti outside Boston before coming out to Colorado; hes bounced in between Red Cliff and Minturn ever since. His favorite painters include Willem DeKooning and Tim Biskup, a former animator for Nickelodeon. Donahues paintings have an obvious kinship with Biskups, in that they possess both a seriousness of craft and an obvious playfulness. They would be equally at home in the MOMA or the Cartoon Museum. Id like to say my paintings are out to save the world, he says. But I just enjoy making things with paint, and people just enjoy them. When I do figures, maybe they see themselves inside. I constantly hear the word whimsical come up. I try to have fun and keep it lighthearted.To that end, Donahue almost never names his pieces until the night before; he and his wife Erika have a special pre-show ritual.The night before the tour, me and my wife go in with a bottle of wine and come up with names, he says. We try and come up with funny names, little tweaks on the paintings. I keep it funny when I can.For more information about the Red Cliff Studio Tour, visit & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or Daily, Vail, Colorado

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